January 15, 2008 by Marj Hatzell
Few things capture Bugaboo’s attention more than school buses. Wait, let me rephrase that: Few things capture Bugaboo’s attention. School Buses just happen to be first on the list. It seems as if the members of the Autism Parent World have a secret handshake of sorts, a way of getting to know each other. One of the first questions someone typically asks me is what his obsession is. And we all know that OCD can be part-and-parcel of Autism. Bug Boy has a thing for Cars. And Star Wars. It sometimes can go through stages but it is always back to cars. He knows more about them than I do. He knows the sponsors, numbers and drivers of all things NASCAR. But Bugaboo? He doesn’t appear as if he’d have an obsession, he is so carefree and he is constantly moving. But does something capture his attention above all else?
School Buses. Big, yellow ,smelly, loud school buses. To him, they are a thing of beauty, a work of art. They bring about deliriously happy squealing, jumping up-and-down and clapping. He will drop everything he is doing to run to the front window and watch as children file onto a school bus or happily jump off at the end of the day. You see, when we bought this house we had no idea that our corner was the school bus stop for the neighborhood. Each and Every child in the two block area (Shaddup. I live in a teeny-tiny town, mmkay?) waits either directly in front or right next to my home to get their respective buses. At the crack of dawn (when we are sometimes still hitting snooze) the high school bus arrives. By the time we are downstairs eating breakfast, the middle school bus is there. The elementary and Kindy buses don’t arrive until Bugaboo is gone himself, but he does see the vo-tech and local Catholic School Bus. And he sees ALL OF THE BUSES when he has a day off. Let’s just say that this makes Bugaboo a teensy bit happy.
The funniest part about all of this is that I never thought it would be a blessing. Bugaboo started Early Intervention about five days after his third birthday. I had no choice but to put him on a bus to school, since Bug Boy was still in Preschool and had no guarateed transportation. Their school hours were identical and since Bugaboo’s school was in the EXACT OPPOSITE DIRECTION of Bug Boy’s (and twenty minutes away, to boot!) we had no choice. I did not want to put my teeny guy on a bus. He was non-verbal, locked in his own world, cried when I was more than four feet away and was afraid of loud noises. How in the world was he going to successfully ride this bus? How would I know if anything happened to him?
School Buses changed Bugaboo. He started running out the door in the morning to the bus. He began to anticipate its arrival. He began opening the door to check when it was there. He began to sense when the bus should arrive. He also separated from me with ease after the first week. My teeny three-year-old that was the size of a barely-two-year-old was becoming more independent. And a week after he started school he quit nursing. He was a big boy! Who needs Mommy?
Here we are two years later. I remember the freezing temps of the first few mornings. We now have our routine carved in stone. We have toy school buses galore (can I just tell you how DIFFICULT it is to find toy school buses? We buy every one we see!). We have school buses that play music, beep when they back up and have real opening and closing doors. They even have the little stop signs on the side. We have buses that drive by themselves, with remote controls and non-battery-operated buses. Each and every morning, Bugaboo goes to the front door, camps out on the door mat and peers out the full-length glass door to catch the first glimpse of his bus. This morning it was late and he REFUSED TO MOVE, even after I called the bus yard and clarified that it would be at least an additional twenty minutes in his winter coat by the foggy front door. Once he’s there, he ain’t gonna budge.
And when it arrived? Out the door, down the steps, a brief pause to smile at the splendor in front of him. A sigh escaped from his lips, as if to say, “Ah! Comfort! I welcome thee!” and he skipped down the driveway to his waiting chariot. A finer sight I will never see in my life. My baby, now a boy, happy as can be, content and peaceful, no longer waiting for his bus.